Infographics


I was reading about the end of the Oxford printed dictionary yesterday and that reading launched me on a tangent that landed me on this infographic about printed material.

Is Print Deadhttp://www.resourceshelf.com/2010/08/30/infographic-is-print-dead/

The infographic is so powerful in delivering the message.  The statistics and details are really “in your face”" and sends a strong message in an easily read format. 

Recently, @pmcash was crowd sourcing his IDC curriculum looking for ideas and my contribution to the conversation was to include infographics and infographic design in the mix.  As it happens, he’s got that listed in a tentative outline that he shared with us yesterday on his blog.  I think that it’s a great idea for a unit in communications.  As with many internet things, looking at infographics could turn into a passive viewing endeavour or it could be a really powerful teaching and learning opportunity.  So powerful, in fact, that the New York Times has devoted space to the topic.

The expectations in the classroom would cover design, colour, research, statistics, publishing, web design, and possibily online Web2.0 tools. 

I think that it’s also an interesting take in publishing.  I think of my own experience and the use by myself and others with products like the Ministry licensed Microsoft Publisher product.  Some of the standard uses and wisdoms included:

  • start with any of the included templates;
  • use font changes sparingly;
  • use graphics and clipart only as needed to enhance the message;
  • use snaking columns to connect ideas;
  • don’t use all caps, and if you must, just in titles and headings;
  • avoid gradients;
  • add white space for readability…

The list goes on and on and you know what?  You can throw it all away.  You want to “unlearn” something?  Unlearn desktop publishing design rules as you head into this forum.  This is an entirely new medium for publishing a message. 

When you think about it, the power of the infographic lies in:

  • strong research;
  • identifying quick hitting and salient points;
  • attacking a topic from all angles;
  • lead the reader’s eye through the content;
  • make your points and motivate the reader to do additional reading.

It’s a whole new and very powerful concept.  The more I think about it, the more that I think that it can be an incredibly useful activity for business communications and marketing courses and design courses which would allow this technique to spill over into all subject areas.

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links for 2010-08-30


Commenting



Image by ehavir via Flickr

If you know me, you know that I’m never short of an opinion.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy blogging so much.  Even from my first days online when I hosted my own Bulletin Board System (anyone remember Essex Wildcat!), I always enjoyed a good discussion or debate.

But, in the blogging world, I’ve generally taken a hands-off approach to my own blog.  My logic is that I’ve blogged and tried to put my thoughts on the line and open it up for people to agree or disagree and follow up as they see fit.

Yesterday, I read this article entitled “5 Reasons Why You Should Answer Your Readers’ Comments“.  It got me thinking.  Have I taken the wrong approach?  I’m trying to get my head around the issue.  It really came to a head when I got a Twitter message from a friend letting me know that she had replied to my blog.  Is that a wakeup call that she didn’t think that I read my blog after the original post?  (Nothing is further from the truth; replies are in fact emailed to me…)

So, here’s my thinking…

Comment:

  • Get in there and participate;
  • Continue the discussion;
  • Let people know that their comment was acknowledged and valued;
  • Take the original idea in new directions;
  • The post and its replies are a community discussion that I need to be part of;
  • It might attract more readers.

Don’t Comment:

  • You’ve made your point in the original post;
  • If your post was any good, it shouldn’t need further clarification;
  • It can be annoying to have every other comment from you;
  • Replies are typically shorter than the original post and may not be as effective;
  • The post is about me – the replies are about the readers.

It’s a concept where I can clearly see both sides of the fence.  If you’re a blogger or a blog reader, where do you stand?  Where should I go with this?

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links for 2010-08-29


A Fresh Start


One of the true benefits of a job in education is that you get a chance to reinvent yourself every school year.  There are a lot of careers that you might have chosen otherwise that just don’t give you that luxury.  Things may change in terms of products that you build, tools that you use, projects that you’re involved with, etc., but it’s only in education that you get a fresh batch of faces and an opportunity for a total refresh every year.

It’s not just K-12, higher education gets that opportunity as well.  A brand new set of faces; perhaps new curriculum; a new chance to establish learning routines; an opportunity to try out new tools.  These are the parameters that make teaching the profession that it is.

You’ve got the curriculum that needs to be addressed but typically, you’re asked to rely on your professional discretion as to how it will happen in your classroom.  While there is the lore of people who have taught a course so often that they have lesson plans laminated and dated, that has to be the stuff that needs to be taken with some scepticism.

It can be difficult to bring in massive change in the middle of a school year, but starting on Day 1, new routines and approaches can be implemented to motivate both teacher and student.  Judicious use also can deliver on the promise of engagement and differentiation.

Think of the possibilities.

Textbooks – Do you really need to dig out and assign those moldy old static content deliverers?  Does your science textbook still have Pluto listed as a planet?  Learning and research is more robust and transparent on the web.

Software – The bane of teachers and IT Departments is ensuring that all of the applications that are installed on classroom computers is done properly and working as it should.  Even when they are, they’re only available at school.  Ironically, computer use and javelins may be the only things that can’t be sent home as homework.  (OK, just kidding about the javelins)  Student workspaces are configured and permissions properly assigned.  A slip and it leads to frustrations.  Change your thoughts from applications needing to be installed to applications web-based that just work.  It opens up a whole new world.  There are even classroom management environments if you’re in search of one.  Flexibility is also required for times of slow connections or maintenance but that’s the world that we live in.

Blogging – There are so many Rs that effective blogging can address.  Reading, writing, reflecting, responding.  The only challenge will be making the decision about whether it’s a classroom blog or whether each student has her own.  Or both?  It’s not just a language tool.  Think of it as an introspection opportunity in all subject areas where students can dig just a little deeper and comment on the thinking of their peers.

Connecting – Can you remember when an expert might be a short term event with a guest appearing in the classroom?  It might happen once a year if the students are lucky.  With the proper connections, everyone has the potential to be an expert.  Instead of collecting monies to hire an expert for a day, make the connection with another class doing the same thing where they are the experts.  Sessions can be as long as they need to be rather than a timetabling nightmare.

Storytelling – There are awesome tools available that allow for remixing, reshaping, and constructing the new story.  The tools can also be used in very trivial ways.  When I talk, I warn against the “low hanging fruit”.  Used properly though, these tools can go far beyond Friday afternoon activities to being a crucial tool for engaging stories to support curriculum.  Look for innovative ways of using tools like Google’s StreetView, for example.

Home and School Connection – The use of online tools open the home/school connection in ways never before possible.  Rather than a paper newsletter that goes home monthly/weekly, web communication can become a true communication enabler.  Find out early if anyone is going to be disadvantaged.  You may be surprised at the various ways that parents and students are connected outside the school.  Consider this a message to go and make all of the online learning transparent to everyone.

Connections – The personal iPod or cell phone can be the elephant in the room.  It’s going to be a fight that you’ll lose so embrace it.  These are really powerful devices and banning them leads to under desk one hand texting.  Have them out and on the desktop for all to see and establish a protocol for their use.  There are times when they are clearly inappropriate but also there are times for learning and active use and discovery.  Use them to expand the connectivity in your classroom.

Amalgamating Content – It’s also important that access to all of these resources is easily available to all involved whether it be students, parents, other classes in your school, collaborating classes world-wide, and principals.  Make it easy on yourself by looking at a class wiki that’s easily updated without extra tools, FTP, etc.  Remember that the wiki isn’t just about you.  The more collaborators, the richer the content.

Movies – There was a time when making movies in the classroom involved high-end equipment and specialized lighting, sounds, etc.  There still is room for that as a discipline but the world has moved on.  Online movie sharing has made this media available to everyone.  Cell phones and mini-cameras bring movie making to the masses.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Even if you aren’t ready to move in that direction, your students are!  Don’t forget that screencasting can be equally as compelling.  The cool educational thing – making a movie requires a lot of thought and research!

The News – There was a time when current events was an important component of every day but that has faded in some quarters.  The connected classroom can bring that back with a vengeance.  Subscribe to news feeds or content and you’ll be amazed at what’s available daily.  Imagine a click and you’re watching a movie about something relevant to today’s lesson.  Or, use any of the earth viewing tools to zoom in on locations and put studies in context.  You don’t necessarily have to do the work for yourself.  Follow some great blogs or online bookmarking feeds.  There are lots of people documenting the best of the best.  Why start from scratch?

Do Some Good – As the world becomes smaller when connected, so does awareness of global and local issues.  Good global citizens are aware of these issues and can direct their fundraising or benevolence efforts toward them.  Once students are aware of the need, it may be difficult deciding where to direct their energies.

Make Something – The availability of all of the reading can lull you and students into being passive consumers of it.  You’ll never read it all anyway so don’t try.  Read enough and then get moving.  Write a program; solve a problem; develop web content; solve a puzzle; take and analyze some measurements; build a birdhouse…

Professional Growth – Before this turns into a book, take time to do something for yourself.  You can’t beat going to a conference or other Professional Development event but I would urge you to think of them differently.  Instead of a place to go to learn something new, think of them as a place to make connections and consolidate your thoughts.  Instead, get yourself a Twitter account and follow some great educators and others, read some blogs, grab some RSS feeds and do the reading and thinking daily.  Don’t just subscribe to people that you can easily agree with.  If you consider yourself a liberal in thinking, latch on to one or two conservative voices.  They’ll make your blood boil but open up windows to new sides of the discussion.

Yes, it’s September and classrooms and lecture halls can be exactly what you want them to be.  The first lessons establish the norms and expectations for the new year.  It’s a chance to be exactly what you want to be.  So, what do you want to be as you get a fresh start?

links for 2010-08-28


Movies


It can often be that I’m the last to know or to find out.  I recall a mention a while back that full-length movies were going to be available in the United States on YouTube.  I do recall having a discussion with a friend about using a proxy to get around this limitation for non-US addresses and the ensuing debate.

I was reading this article yesterday about the rumours of a planned bankruptcy of Blockbuster, thinking about how much this industry has changed.  Our local video rental store has just gone through its closing motions, selling off its inventory of movies.  Rumblings are heard that Apple is going to rent movies for $.99 through iTunes.  There is a selection there now, but at a higher price.

But, movies through YouTube is somehow more intriguing so off I go to see what was offered.  It wasn’t quite what I had expected.  In fact, I was kind of reminded that the titles were like the second movie of a double feature at a drive-in.  I couldn’t exactly find the HD version of “Avatar”.

But, I did find some zombie movies and decided to give it a go.  I had to log in to prove that I was over 18.  Apparently, zombies do some things without clothes on or to people without clothes on or something.  I lasted about 10 minutes and virtually walked out and started looking around.  

I found an eclectic selection and some titles that I remembered from the deep recesses of my memory.  “Night of the Living Dead”, “Invasion of the Bee Girls”, and even “Reefer Madness”!  But, no “Avatar”.  Since the movies are streamed for no charge, I’m guessing the selection is available because of pricing or abandonment of copyright claims.

Aw, but there is a classic.  “The Best of the Three Stooges”.  That wouldn’t be family viewing around our house but rather one of the little delights that I would partake.

But, there would be a nice niche for these types of movies.  For example, I really like the classic Charlie Chan movies.  I like all of the Chan actors.  Whether it’s Warner Oland, Sidney Toler, or Roland Winters, I can watch these over and over.  There are plenty of clips in the regular YouTube selection but, alas, nothing in the movie section – yet.  I can only hope.

The terms and conditions for use of YouTube content remain a concern.  Section 4C still indicates that you’re expected to stream the content through the YouTube player.  That does pose a problem if you want to watch a movie on an airplane though.  The terms and conditions may make sense for watching the 2-3 minute shorter clips but seems impractical for full-length movies.

But, if Blockbuster is making the effort to reinvent itself, let’s hope that YouTube does the same thing.  I’m hoping for an expanded collection (please get the Chan movies) and a download to mobile device to make the whole concept more workable.